Arkansas House approves ban on ‘sex-selection’ abortions
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas House voted Tuesday to impose fines and prison time on doctors who perform abortions that are based solely on whether the mother wants to have a boy or girl, moving the state closer toward adopting a “sex-selection” ban that opponents say is unconstitutional.
The prohibition adopted by the majority-Republican House on a 79-3 vote is the latest among a series of abortion restrictions advancing months after Republicans expanded their majorities. The bill now heads to the majority-GOP Senate.
“The bottom line is it’s just the right thing to do to have this in the law,” Republican Rep. Charlie Collins told lawmakers before the vote.
Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota already ban such abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights. An Indiana law that also covers race selection and genetic anomalies has been put on hold pending a court challenge.
Doctors who violate the ban could face up to a year in prison and up to a $2,500 fine under the measure, as well as civil penalties. The woman who receives or attempts to receive an abortion basely solely on the sex of the fetus would not face any criminal charges or civil damages under the measure, which would take effect in 2018.
Under the Arkansas measure, a doctor performing an abortion would ask the patient if she knows the sex of the child. If she does, the doctor lets her know that is illegal to have an abortion based solely on gender. Would-be parents can usually find out the sex of the child at the mother’s 20-week checkup. A 2013 state law prohibits abortions 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.
“This bill intrudes on the doctor/patient relationship by requiring doctors to become investigators and patients their suspects, and it does nothing to address the root causes of gender discrimination and bias,” said Ashley Wright, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “This bill simply takes away a women’s constitutional right to make personal medical decisions that are best for her and her family.”
Jerry Cox, the head of the Arkansas Family Council, which has pushed for the sex-selection ban, said he didn’t know of any documented cases in the state where a woman has terminated a pregnancy because she wanted a boy or girl.
“Really it’s impossible to know the answer to that, but I think most people would agree we should never allow our society to slip into a point where we favor boys over girls or girls over boys in a way that we would systematically eliminate one sex or the other,” Cox said.
The measure is among several abortion restrictions advancing their way through the Legislature after Republican expanded their majorities in the House and Senate in November. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month signed into law a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure, and the House on Monday approved a measure requiring the state to suspend or revoke an abortion facility’s license for any law or rule violation.
Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo